Pappy Boyington and the Black Sheep Squadron

By Ray Starmann

(This article was previously published in WORLD at WAR MAGAZINE, VOLUME 45 | DEC 2015 – JAN 2016)

The story of the Black Sheep Squadron, VMF-214 is really the story of Gregory “Pappy” Boyington, because it was Boyington who made the squadron into one of the finest fighting units in Marine Corps history. Boyington had guts, resourcefulness and tenacity; qualities also exhibited by the men under his command. Perhaps, the truth about Boyington and the Black Sheep lies somewhere between the Hollywood portrayal, Boyington’s own version of history and reality. The Black Sheep fought for 84 days. They piled up an incredible tally of 203 enemy planes damaged or destroyed, while sinking several troop transports and supply ships, destroying numerous Japanese installations and creating nine aces with 97 accumulated kills. For their actions they were awarded the highest unit decoration in the US military, the Presidential Unit Citation, for extraordinary heroism in action.

Gregory Boyington was born on 4 December 1912 in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho and was raised in the logging towns of St. Maries, Idaho and Tacoma, Washington. Boyington was a small child who was often picked on for his size. But, bullies soon realized that Boyington was a tough and mean opponent. These qualities would one day be transferred to the Japanese.  He quickly made a name for himself as a brawler and a high school wrestler.

He graduated from the University of Washington, where he joined ROTC and lettered in wrestling and swimming. In 1934, he graduated with a B.S. in Aeronautical Engineering. The effects of the Depression were still in full swing and Boyington was lucky to be hired by Boeing to work as a draftsman and engineer on the XB-15 bomber project.

On 15 April 1935, Congress passed the Aviation Cadet Act, which allowed the military to train a thousand new pilots. Always needing money, Boyington was lured by the active duty pay and the flight pay bonus. He decided to apply for flight training as a cadet in the Marines.  He had been commissioned a second lieutenant in the Coast Artillery Reserve in June 1934 and had served two months on active duty with 630th Coast Artillery at Fort Worden, Washington.

On 13 June 1935, he enlisted in the Volunteer Marine Corps Reserve. He accepted an appointment as an aviation cadet in the Marine Corps Reserve on 18 February 1936 and was assigned to Naval Air Station, Pensacola, Florida, for flight training. While at Pensacola, the cadets learned basic military procedures and academic subjects as well, such as aerodynamics, meteorology and Morse Code. At Pensacola, Boyington did not exhibit the talent he displayed during the war as a pilot. He graduated with average or below average marks from his instructors. The flight training at Pensacola was harsh, “a pressure cooker, with no breaks between stages, no chances for a student to catch his breath.”

Pensacola also introduced Boyington to the rowdy, social drinking atmosphere of the off duty military. It was a social culture that influenced young men to drink. Strangely, growing up in a family of alcoholics, Boyington had never even tried alcohol until he was in the military. Boyington took to alcohol like a horse to water and never looked back. When he drank, he became pugnacious and would often challenge anyone to a wrestling match.

Boyington survived Pensacola and was designated a naval aviator on 11 March 1937. It was at Pensacola that he met Lieutenant Colonel James “Nuts” Moore and Captain Joe Smoak, a former instructor and by the book hard case who did not get along with Boyington. Both men’s careers would intertwine with Boyington’s during the war.

After Pensacola, he was transferred to Quantico, Virginia, for duty with Fleet Marine Force. Boyington accepted a commission as a second lieutenant in the regular Marine Corps and was discharged from the reserves on 1 July 1937. He completed the officer basic school in Philadelphia in July 1938. While there, Boyington landed in debt, a trend that would follow him for the rest of his life.  He also got into several fistfights, another trend, and graduated at the bottom of his class.

He was ordered to the 2nd Marine Aircraft Group, VMS-2 at the San Diego Naval Air Station and promoted to first lieutenant on 4 November 1940. Because of family pressures and naiveté, Boyington went into further debt, in order to provide his wife and family with the things they desired.  Boyington’s drinking was also rearing up. He got drunk while chaperoning an enlisted dance and swam across the channel without his clothes. Reporting naked to a sentry, the guard snapped, “I don’t know whether you’re crazy or not, but I bet you’re a Marine.”

It was at San Diego that Boyington’s reputation as an excellent began. His body seemed to adjust to the rigors of dogfighting better than other pilots, Perhaps it was the fact that as a wrestler he had always been in perfect physical condition. He also participated in the filming of the movie, Flight Command with Robert Taylor. This involvement with Hollywood was a harbinger of things to come, forty years later.

Boyington received orders to report to Pensacola as a flight instructor on 3 January 1941.  While there, his personal problems mounted. His creditors tracked him down and reported his debts to his commanders. His marriage collapsed as a result of both parties’ heavy drinking. Boyington was also in trouble for slugging a senior officer at the Officers Club. With all these things coming to a head, there seemed to be only one answer…

After listening to a stellar sales pitch inside the Pensacola Officers Club, Boyington decided to resign his commission in August of 1941, in order to accept a position with the Central Aircraft Manufacturing Company (CAMCO). Much of Boyington’s motivation to join was based on his numerous debts and his family troubles. Plus, Camco offered the fliers a great package with a one year contract. Besides the hefty salary, the fliers would be paid 500.00 for every Japanese plane they bagged. CAMCO was a contractor that staffed a Special Air Unit to defend China and the Burma Road from the marauding Japanese during the Sino-Japanese War. After heavy influence from Chiang Kai-Shek’s wife, Soony Mei-Ling, President Roosevelt and Congree authorized the clandestine operation. It would eventually be called the AVG, the American Volunteer Group, nicknamed The Flying Tigers. The Flying Tigers were commanded by “Colonel” Claire Chennault, a retired army captain and aviator, who had run amok of army aviation brass for his support of fighter doctrine over bomber doctrine.

Boyington’s resignation was heartily endorsed by his superiors who felt that while he was an excellent pilot, his conduct was unbecoming that of a Marine Corps officer.

On 24 September 1941, the Dutch vessel, Boschfontein departed San Francisco for Rangoon, Burma. Boyington and the new pilots arrived at Kyedaw Airfield, 175 miles north of Rangoon. It was a primitive existence for them as they slept in grass huts and battled the infinite numbers and species of bugs that plagued the area. The only solace was the P-40 Tomahawks parked at the field. The P-40 was the newest fighter plane at the time, a solidly built aircraft with two .50 caliber machine guns that protruded atop the nose. It also had a much greater turning radius than its predecessor, the Grumman F3F.

Boyington and the new pilots were eventually introduced to Chennault, a 48 year old rugged, slow talking Southerner who initially impressed them all with his bearing and knowledge of the enemy’s fighter tactics. Chennault was a spit and polish former officer who actually held no rank, but insisted on being called “Colonel”, which Boyington, in a rare moment of adhering to any military protocol resented.

While stationed at Toungoo, Boyington was back to his same old antics, getting highly intoxicated and into trouble for conduct unbecoming with other AVG pilots who practically tore the town apart in an all-night search for liquor and women. Thankfully, the Japanese bombardment of Kunming took precedence over any disciplinary actions. Boyington was instructed with the rest of the unit to redeploy to Kunming. Kunming was like a resort compared to the other bases. There were showers, hot food and a good bar. And, the airfield wasn’t that bad either.

In the first week of December 1941, events were about to take a very dark turn for the Allies across the Pacific; from Malaya to the Philippines to Wake Island to Hawaii. What had been a gentlemen’s war with days of endless training and Chennault’s infinite standard operating procedures was about to become a real war for the AVG.

By the end of January, 1942, the AVG had bagged 62 Japanese planes and 11 planes destroyed on the ground. Twenty-five Flying Tigers pilots had accrued over $36,000 in bonuses. Unfortunately, Boyington, while having participated in combat missions, had failed to down a single plane.

But, his luck began to change in on 6 February 1942, when he shot down two Ki-27 Nakajima’s. Boyington described the combat. “I caught a Jap flying along not paying attention, which is a dangerous thing to do, so I got up behind him and put a burst or two into his fuselage. Seconds later he burst into flames and went down. A minute or two later I found another safe bet…” Meanwhile, Boyington’s drinking was taking its toll on him. Depressed that he did not have more kills and more money, he hit the bottle, resulting in a drunken escapade at a dinner Chennault hosted for Chiang Kai Shek and his wife.

By the Spring of 1942, Chennault informed the Flying Tigers that they would soon be inducted into the army as fliers. For Boyington it was enough. He was frequently at odds with Chennault. Also, there was a disagreement with the AVG concerning how many kills Boyington had earned. He had been credited with 4.5 kills while serving with the 1st Squadron, AVG, but he believed he had six. Boyington broke his contract with the AVG in April of 1942 and returned to the US. Chennault felt that Boyington had stabbed him in the back. He ordered that Boyington be given a dishonorable discharge from the AVG and he also recommended that he be inducted into the 10th Air Force as a second lieutenant. A dishonorable discharge from a civilian organization meant nothing to Boyington, but returning to the grade of second lieutenant did, especially when he was certain he could wrangle a Marine commission as a Major.

Because of his record as an insubordinate, borderline alcoholic, Boyington had trouble being reinstated in the Marines. Fortunately for him the vagaries of war were in his favor. The Marine Corps needed pilots and qualified combat pilots were a rarity. He was reinstated in the Marine Corps Reserves in the rank of Major.

He was assigned to Marine Aircraft Group 11 at Turtle Bay on the southeast end of Espiritu Santo, code-name BUTTON. MAG-11’s commanding officer was Sandy Sanderson, a friend of Boyington’s and a fellow hell raiser. Boyington was assigned as assistant operation officer, a job he hated for its lack of excitement and time spent away from a cockpit. Apparently, the biggest thrill at Turtle Bay was the arrival of a squadron flying the new F4U-1 Corsair.  The plane had a monster Pratt & Whitney, 18-cylinder, 2000 horsepower radial engine. The plane was also equipped with six .50 caliber machine guns. With its gull wing, enormous propeller and cylindrical cowling, the Corsair exuded speed and power.

After six weeks in operations, Boyington was assigned as the executive officer of VMF-122 on 11 March 1943. VMF-122 was equipped with lumbering Grumman F4F Wildcats and commanded by Major Elmer Brackett, Jr. a martinet and loathsome commanding officer. The squadron was deployed to Cactus, the Marine code name for Guadalcanal. Life on Guadalcanal was more of a battle with the heat, rain and insects than with the Japanese. The war had moved to the northwest and Guadalcanal was now a backwater base.

Boyington took command of VMF-122 after Brackett was reassigned.  The press got a hold of the command change and stories were written about the Flying Tigers ace who was back in the cockpit again.

VMF-122’s combat tour lasted a mere 16 days before they were pulled out of action and sent to Sydney, Australia for R&R. When they returned to Turtle Bay they were equipped with the new Corsairs on the eve of the invasion of the New Georgia Islands. During this period, Boyington was relieved by his old nemesis from Pensacola, Joe Smoak, who was now a Lieutenant-Colonel. The by the book Smoak and the booze hound Boyington were polar opposites. It was only a matter of time before they would butt heads. Just as quickly as Boyington was relieved by Smoak, he was reinstated as commander by Brigadier General Nuts Moore, who conveniently resided on the other side of the island. During a wrestling, drinking celebration of his return to command status, Boyington broke the fibula in his lower left leg. He was transferred to a hospital ship, the USS Rixey, which took him to Auckland, New Zealand.

Upon his return to duty, Boyington was surprisingly given command of another squadron, VMF-112, a rear echelon unit involved in flight training. But, he was taken off flight status by a vengeful Lieutenant Colonel Joe Smoak. To Smoak’s dismay, Boyington befriended a flight surgeon who put him back on flight status even though his ankle was swollen and weak.

Smoak’s attempts to hammer Boyington were steamrolled by the sinews of war. There was a shortage of Corsair squadrons in the Pacific and with VMF-112 scheduled to rotate back to the States, Turtle Bay became a repot depot for new pilots seeking assignment.  With General Moore’s blessing, Boyington was given command of VMF-124, which would be trained for combat operations. The replacements consisted of veterans from other rotating squadrons and pilots from the States. Paul “Moon” Mullen, Virgil Ray and Allen McCartney all had combat experience. Ed Olander, Bob McClurg, Chris “Wild Man” Magee, William Junior Heier, Don Moore, Ed Olt, Rollie Rinabarger, Red Harris, Bruce Matheson all had training, but no combat experience.

Boyington’s command presence on the ground was careless and even reckless. He had little regard for military protocol. It was in the air where he came alive. He soon showed the new pilots that he was an aggressive, highly skilled pilot and leader in the air who would take the fight to the enemy, with little regard for his own life.

Stanley R. Bailey was chosen to be Boyington’s executive officer. He was a details man and the perfect counter-balance to Boyington’s fly by night attitude of leadership. Bailey would later remark, “Boyington was a horror as a CO.”[v] Bailey was mainly referring to Boyington’s complete abhorrence of military decorum.

During the month of August, Boyington put his men through rigorous training. Also, the original squadron designation, 124 would soon become inactive. The squadron number was switched to VMF-214 (Marine Fighter Squadron 214), the Swashbucklers, and a unit finishing a combat tour. They were disbanded at the end of their combat tour and the unit designation was assigned to Marine command on Espiritu Santo. The 214 had participated in the Solomon Islands campaign, using Henderson Field on Guadalcanal and later Munda. Their commander had been killed and life on Munda was a hard day to day slugfest against the elements. Morale was low and the men were exhausted.  Nevertheless, the 214’s leadership was not happy about the transfer.

The new VMF-214 consisted of Boyington as commander, Bailey as XO, 2 captains, 22 first lieutenants and two second lieutenants. Frank Walton, a ground officer, was assigned as Air Intelligence Officer. Walton was a former LAPD cop, an expert swimmer and something of an aspiring writer, who would one day write, Once They Were Eagles – The Men of the Black Sheep Squadron.  He also rarely drank and was physically big. He was someone who could handle Boyington, even though Boyington out-ranked him. Also, Lieutenant Jim Reames, a Navy doctor, was assigned to the squadron in September 1943. He was the slow-talking flight surgeon from Arkansas who had green-lighted Boyington’s flight status even though he had a broken ankle.

Boyington officially took command of VMF-214 on 7 September 1943. The men called him Pappy because he was 32 and a decade older than most of his men.  The squadron had no assigned aircraft and immediately flew to Guadalcanal and the Russell Islands in borrowed aircraft. The Black Sheep would fly out of Vella La Vella, an island in the very west of the New Georgia chain that had been captured on 15 August.  The Black Sheep’s area of operations extended from the Russell Islands/New Georgia to Bouganville, New Britain-New Ireland.

On 13 September 1943 the pilots in 214 gathered in Boyington’s hooch to decide on a nickname for the unit. The first choice was “Boyington’s Bastards”, which was rejected the following day by Marine Corps public information officer Captain Jack DeChant. De Chant suggested the Black Sheep because the squadron was formed of a myriad of veteran fighter pilots and green replacements fresh from the States. A crest was designed utilizing the black bar of bastardy across the shield, a superimposed black sheep, a circle of twelve stars and an image of a F4U Corsair. Pen Johnson, a combat correspondent at Turtle Bay designed the crest for the Black Sheep.

On 14 September, the Black Sheep flew their first combat mission; escorting B-24’s on a strike at Kahili. Although, the Japanese were spotted, there was no aerial combat on that day.

During the squadron’s third mission on 16 September, while conducting a dive bombing raid on Ballale Island, the Black Sheep and the dive bombers were jumped by 30-40 Zeros over the New Georgia Islands. VMF-214 claimed 11 kills, five of which belonged to Boyington.

It was always better if a pilot had witnesses that could support his claim of downing an enemy. But, some of the time, it was done on an honor system. All pilots claiming kills were interviewed by Frank Walton, who, as a ground officer was considered a neutral party. He became the ad hoc final decision maker who had to separate the wheat from the chaff. As Walton remarked, “All of our claims were inflated. We shot down about four times as many planes as the Japanese ever produced according to the records. We never had any verification on a lot of the claims. We trusted in many cases, just the guy’s word.”[vi]

The Black Sheep’s next missions consisted of hunting for surface vessels off of Choiseul. The aerial battles would range over hundreds of square miles over water and scattered islands. Once the dogfights started, leaders would lose control in the melee and it became a case of everyman for himself.

Boyington continued to drink heavily, while performing brilliantly in the air. The Black Sheep admired him. To them his drinking and brawling were small flaws in a man who was rapidly becoming a legend in his own time. On one mission on 4 October over Kahili, Boyington downed three Zekes in a single 360 turn in less than one minute.

The Black Sheep were beginning to get a lot of press in the States. George Weller, a correspondent for the Chicago Daily News was invited by Walton to do a story on the 214. In a publicity stunt, ball caps from the World Series teams were traded for Japanese kills.

Part of Boyington’s magic as a flier was his genius for improvisation and implementing new ideas. He developed the fighter sweep theory, where fighters would fly far ahead of bombers they were escorting and jump any Japanese waiting to ambush the bombers, long before the bombers ever showed up over the target area.

Meanwhile, the air war over Bougainville was intensifying. On 17 October 1943 the Black Sheep conducted a fighter sweep over Kahili. Boyington used the bombers as bait and the Corsairs shot down 20 Zekes. Boyington had three kills, while the Black Sheep had a total of 14. Three Corsairs were lost and Bruce Matheson and Ed Harper were wounded in action. The next day the Black Sheep flew cover for a Douglas TBD strike. Knowing the Japanese had fluent English speakers monitoring their frequencies, Boyington exclaimed, “Come on up and fight you bastards!.”[vii] On that day, the Black Sheep clobbered the Japanese. Boyington’s count was increased to 14 kills. By the time the 214’s first combat tour was over, Boyington had racked up 20 enemy planes shot down. He was well on his way to being the next Joe Foss or Eddie Rickenbacker.

As the second tour was about to begin in November of 1943, VMF-214’s roster was increased to 40 pilots, including a veteran pilot, Major Henry Miller who had flown with VMF-124.  In the meantime, Lieutenant Colonel Joe Smoak was making problems for Boyington with his Mickey Mouse inspections and regulations. On 19 November he relieved Boyington as commander and assigned him as operations officer at HQ on Vella La Vella. Boyington went outside of his chain of command and informed Nuts Moore that he had been relieved. General Moore chewed out Smoak, demanding to know why he would relieve one of the finest pilots in the Pacific War. He instantly reinstated Boyington as commander of VMF-214. Smoak wasn’t finished with Boyington. He placed him under house arrest for going over his head to Moore at 1st Marine Air Wing. But, Smoak had finally gone too far. Moore relieved him and eventually Smoak found himself in ground combat on Bougainville.

The Black Sheep continued routine strikes on Bougainville and began fighter sweeps over Rabaul, New Britain, the biggest Japanese base in the South Pacific. On 23 December, the Black Sheep were strangely ordered to conduct a reverse sweep, 90 minutes after the bombers had hammered Rabaul. The Japanese scrambled everything flyable and put 97 Zeroes in the air. Boyington shot down four planes and the 214 had 11 kills that day. Sadly, three Black Sheep pilots were lost. The Black Sheep returned home and went on a two day drinking binge that lasted into Christmas.

On 27 December, the Black Sheep hit Rabaul again. This time Boyington racked up one kill while the squadron downed five Japanese planes. The next day over Rabaul and St. George’s Channel, VMF-214, 321 and 223 were ambushed by a myriad of Zeros. The fight was called a draw, with Boyington only getting a “probable” kill and the 214 four more. Boyington’s record had climbed to 25 kills. The Black Sheep’s success brought more reporters out to the South Pacific to do stories on them. Many publicity shots were done of Boyington posing with the Corsair, LuluBelle, Number 86. This was not Boyington’s plane. He always flew the aircraft in the worst possible condition to show his men, that he as a leader was not only fearless, but that their gripes about maintenance problems would never equal his plane’s own poor condition.

Boyington shot down his 26th Japanese plane on 3 January 1944 over Rabaul, but was shot down that day as well. On that morning, 48 US fighters, including four planes from VMF-214 conducted a sweep over the Japanese base at Rabaul. Boyington was tactical commander of the flight and arrived over the target area at 0800. The US pilots were met by over 70 Zeros waiting in ambush over St. George’s Channel. In the combat that followed, Boyington shot down his 26th plane. He was ambushed by several Japanese aircraft and was wounded six times; in the left leg, ankle, the head and forearm. Boyington described his condition. “My left ear was almost torn off. My arms and shoulders contained holes and shrapnel. My left ankle was shattered from a 20 millimeter cannon shot. The calf of my left leg had a 7.7 bullet through it. In my groin, I had been shot completely through the leg by 20mm shrapnel. Inside my leg was a gash bigger than my fist.” [viii]

In the confusion of battle, Boyington’s plane was lost from sight and no one saw him bail out of his Corsair. Japanese ace Masajiro Mike Kawato originally claimed that he had shot down Boyington, but this was later proven false, although Kawato held to the story to his death. Kawato was certainly present at the battle, but as one of 70 Japanese planes tangling with 48 US aircraft. Sadly, Boyington’s wingman, George Ashmun was killed in action.

After parachuting into the sea, Boyington inflated his life raft and was picked up by a Japanese submarine, I-181 and taken prisoner. He was declared missing in action by the Marine Corps, but his captivity was not reported to the Red Cross by the Japanese. Boyington was interrogated by Chikaki Honda a Nisei, who worked out of IJN Headquarters on Rabaul.

He was held at Rabaul and then flown to Truk on a Japanese Betty bomber where he survived the immense aerial onslaught code-named Operation Hailstone. He was moved to Ofuna and then to Omori Prison Camp adjacent to Tokyo Bay. While at both camps, he was beaten severely on several occasions and he also suffered from Beriberi. At Omori, he met Richard O’Kane the commander of the USS Tang and the surviving members of the Tang’s crew. During his imprisonment, he was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel.

On 8 January 1944, five days after Boyington was shot down, the original Black Sheep were disbanded and the pilots were put in a replacement pool at Marine Aircraft Group 11. The squadron was reformed with new pilots and a new commander on 29 January 1944 at Marine Corps Air Station Santa Barbara. While travelling to the South Pacific aboard the USS Franklin, the ship was struck by Japanese bombers, resulting in 772 deaths on the ship, including 32 pilots from VMF-214. This ended the squadron’s involvement in WWII.  Not counting the disaster on the Franklin, the 214 had suffered 23 pilots killed or missing in action and lost 48 aircraft to accidents or combat.

Boyington was liberated from Japanese captivity on 29 August 1945. He was flown back to the US at Alameda Naval Air Station where he met 21 of his former pilots from Black Sheep Squadron.  After officially being promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel, Boyington travelled to Washington, DC, where he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor by President Truman.  The medal had been awarded by President Roosevelt in March of 1944 and was held until Boyington could hopefully receive it. The citation reads:

“For extraordinary heroism above and beyond the call of duty as Commanding Officer of Marine Fighting Squadron TWO FOURTEEN in action against enemy Japanese forces in Central Solomons Area from September 12, 1943 to January 3, 1944. Consistently outnumbered throughout successive hazardous flights over heavily defended hostile territory, Major Boyington struck at the enemy with daring and courageous persistence, leading his squadron into combat with devastating results to Japanese shipping, shore installations and aerial forces. Resolute in his efforts to inflict crippling damage on the enemy, Major Boyington led a formation of twenty-four fighters over Kahili on October 17, and, persistently circling the airdrome where sixty hostile aircraft were grounded, boldly challenged the Japanese to send up planes. Under his brilliant command, our fighters shot down twenty enemy craft in the ensuing action without the loss of a single ship. A superb airman and determined fighter against overwhelming odds, Major Boyington personally destroyed 26 of the many Japanese planes shot down by his squadron and by his forceful leadership developed the combat readiness in his command which was a distinctive factor in the Allied aerial achievements in this vitally strategic area.”

Boyington was also awarded the Navy Cross on 4 October 1945. Two years later he was promoted to full colonel and then discharged from active service. After leaving the service, Boyington worked various odd jobs, including jobs as a referee and a professional wrestler. His health had strangely improved during this time as a POW, mainly due to the fact that he was no longer drinking and under forced sobriety courtesy of the Japanese military.

Boyington’s memoirs, Baa Baa Black Sheep were first published in 1958. He later wrote a novel about the Flying Tigers called Tonya, which was something of a spy story. He would spend the post-war years in a total of three marriages and was an absentee father to three children as well. Boyington would regain the spotlight for a time in the mid-1970’s when NBC created a TV show loosely based on his memoirs. He rapidly faded out of the spotlight and in 1988 he died of cancer at age 75 in Fresno, California.  Boyington was buried with full honors in Arlington National Cemetery. VMF-214 performed a fly by in his honor.

Boyington had led a hard-drinking, no-nonsense, unorthodox lifestyle in and out of the service. In some ways he was like Patton, a man who had stepped into history to serve for one brief shining moment; that rare breed of warrior, so capable in wartime, yet so flawed and perhaps lost in peacetime.

9 comments on “Pappy Boyington and the Black Sheep Squadron
  1. Pingback: Pappy - M14 Forum

  2. Pappy and Patton will always be alongside Davy Crockett and William Tecumseh Sherman as men I look up to and hope to meet some day in heaven.

  3. I met Boyington once at a California Air Show. In the care of his latest wife he was beginning to look frail. He autographed one of his books for me. Mike Kawato was at the same air show, also selling his book “Bye, Bye, Black Sheep.” I tried to get Boyington to also sign Mike’s book so I’d have one with both signatures, but Boyington would have none of it.

  4. I have his autograph, that i got as a child living in San Diego while our family was stationed there in the mid 80’s thought I had lost it and found an old Photo Album and there it was along with some other WW2 combat pilots.

  5. There was a proposal in 2006 to erect a memorial to Boyington on the University of Washington campus honoring his service. It was voted down by the student council, who labeled Boyington a “rich white racist who killed people for a living.” As a retired Navy Captain who graduated from the UW, I am unable to comprehend how our youth is so misinformed by our institutions of “higher” learning.

    • Well, Pappy was anything but rich. Amazing how my generation of kids in the 70’s loved Baa Baa Black Sheep and Millennials call him a racist. Jesus…

  6. Seems like Smoak was like any puckered arse liberal you ever met, and probably would have been an Obummer/Hillary supporter. Stomping on pissants is what the do best.

    Pappy would have liked Trump, and Trump would have liked Pappy. They both have their human side, and they both know how to get the job done!

  7. I got to meet Pappy and he autographed his autobiography for me. Always an honor to meet a Medal of Honor recipient and something I will never forget.

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